The young people laughed when the ATM asked them if they required “some moolah for ya sky rocket”. The machine, in Spitalfields, was one of five Cockney cash dispensers from East London to Barnet that began dispensing “moolah” yesterday morning.
Bank Machine, which runs 2,500 ATMs across the country, was aiming to amuse, but it has grander ambitions too. It hopes to follow the Cockney cash machines with Brummie, Geordie, Scouse and Scots ATMs. It hopes that ATMs will serve to keep these dialects alive in Britain.
But John Strachan, 52, an IT worker from Dundee, found the experience troubling. When it offered to serve him in English or Cockney, he suspected a hoax. He selected Cockney.
“Readin’ your bladder of lard”, read the message on the screen. It asked for his “Huckleberry Finn”. Then more bewildering questions: did he wanted to see his balance on the Charlie Sheen? Did he wish to change his Huckleberry Finn or did he simply require sausage and mash, with or without a receipt?
After the concept was explained to him, he was so indignant that he resorted to slang himself: “It’s complete pants,” he said. “Using an ATM is a very sensitive moment.”
Others customers — a receptionist from Buckinghamshire, a product manager from Wimbledon, even a Frenchman — seemed delighted to be addressed in Cockney.
There seemed to be a scarcity of real Cockneys in Spitalfields to communicate with the cash machine in their mother tongue.
Farther east, however, next to the Cockney cash machine in Hackney, Roy Parker, 62, a bona fide Cockney, was working behind the counter of a mini-cab firm. So, what did he think of the ATM outside?
“Real Cockneys don’t have bank accounts or all that palava,” he said. “They put it under the mattress.”